When Nicolai Højgaard touched down in Rome for the Italian Open last September, he found himself mobbed by fans congratulating him on his victory at the European Masters in Switzerland a week prior.
A flurry of high-fives and fist-bumps painted a wholesome scene, yet there was one small problem with the picture: Nicolai had never won on the DP World Tour.
In fact, after taking some time off, he had not even played the event at Crans-sur-Sierre the preceding week. His brother Rasmus had though, and played very well indeed, securing a one-shot victory.
Welcome to life on Tour as the identical Højgaard twins, the 21-year-old rising stars of Danish golf.
“Not many people can tell us apart, so probably 50 people came up to him … that was tough on him,” Rasmus told CNN’s The Jazzy Golfer.
Days later, congratulations once again poured in for Nicolai, but this time there was no case of mistaken identity.
Playing via a last-minute invite to the event, a one-stroke triumph at Marco Simone Golf Club secured him his maiden European Tour win and wrote the Højgaard name into the history books as the first brothers to win back-to-back Tour events.
“It’s quite amazing that we didn’t notice it straight away until we actually got asked questions about it,” Nicolai said of the feat.
“It’s a special achievement and hopefully we can do it again in the future.”
Did the fist-bump fiasco light a fire under Nicolai ahead of the tournament? His twin, who finished 18th in Rome, certainly thinks it did.
“One hundred percent, I would use it as fuel as well,” Rasmus said.
“I think he was definitely motivated, he really wanted to get that win … then we got to share that together.”
With Rasmus already having two Tour wins under his belt, at the Mauritius Open and UK Championship, Nicolai had the added motivation of making up ground on his twin.
While Rasmus was clinching his second win in August 2020, Nicolai was enduring a difficult campaign that saw him finish no higher than 16th all season.
Capturing his second Tour title at the UAE’s Ras al Khaimah Championship in February, Nicolai still trails Rasmus by one win but, incredibly, sits just a single world ranking place above his brother at No. 119. The duo are the two highest ranked Danish golfers, with Marcus Helligkilde and Thorbjorn Olesen the only other compatriots inside the top-200.
“He got them [wins] quite fast and we’ve had some good competition going on, so it was good to get a couple back on him,” Nicolai said.
Yet while they share a healthy rivalry, it’s the emotional support that forms the heart of the duo’s touring relationship. Whether it’s having a practice partner or simply having someone to go to dinner with, the Højgaards are making the most of their closeness.
“We obviously knew at some point we’re going to go in different ways but at the moment we’re still on the same path so we can travel together,” Rasmus said.
“We share each other’s experience from winning and tough moments. I learned a lot from Nicolai because he was struggling quite a bit in 2020 while I was playing very good. I knew that was tough on him, but he got past that and we’ve spoken a lot about it.
“There’s definitely a lot of things I can take from that, and it’s nice to share all the good and tough moments together.”
Next stop: Ryder Cup
With four events to play until November’s season closing Tour Championship in Dubai, Nicolai is seeking to join his twin on three wins, while Rasmus hopes to display the form needed to secure one of 10 PGA Tour cards up for grabs next year.
Yet both siblings are united in a common goal: to play the 2023 Ryder Cup.
After being postponed two years ago due to the pandemic, the iconic biennial competition returns next September at a venue very fond to one Højgaard twin, Rome’s Marco Simone club.
And with Danish golfing icon Thomas Bjørn, a 15-time European Tour champion, vice-captaining Team Europe, the twins are itching to make the 12-player team. Six players automatically qualify via a ranking points system, with the remaining half picked by captain Luke Donald.
“There’s a long way to go and there’s a lot of golf to be played, so it’s easy to get too far ahead (but) there’s a lot of work to be done,” Nicolai said.
“I think I’ve got a good chance if I keep focusing on the right things and do the right work, so it’s definitely a big goal of mine.”
“Especially having Thomas as a vice-captain,” Rasmus added. “Nic and I have a good relationship with him, he obviously wants us on the team as well.
“That would be a cool experience to share with Nicolai as well, maybe play a foursome together.”